Live from Jacksonville at the Florida Theater

Again a live to Lynyrd Skynyrd's credit. One more ! With, of course, all the possible marketing itemisations : a two-CD and a DVD pack, a double CD or a single DVD (classic or Blu-ray). We almost can get lost. But this last production might really sideline the former albums recorded live by the band. I talk over that. Hold on, it might take a long time, a new Lynyrd Skynyrd CD is always an event (although some people say).

First, I think it's a true live, with a quality sound, lighter and less compact (a good explanation is probably the lack of re-recordings. In any case, I didn't notice something suspect watching the DVD).

Then, this discographic account gives us the opportunity to rediscover a boosted Gary Rossington with a more incisive and almost rejunevated guitar playing.

Finally, this concert allows us to appreciate tunes rarely, even never, played live by the current band (« Things Goin’ On », « Poison Whiskey », « I Need You »).

Lynyrd Skynyrd decided to spoil its fans playing the entirety of the two first albums of the band (« Pronounced… » and « Second Helping ») spread over two nights, in the Jacksonville Florida Theater. Both shows, first planned the 12th and 13th of February 2015, have been postponed to the 2nd and 3rd of April because of Gary Rossington's hospitalization. So the first evening, Lynyrd's musicians attack this mythical first album in front of an entirely rallied behind their cause audience. But for all that they don't make fun of us. The titles string together in the order of the record with diligence and also with sincerity. Even Michael Cartellone's playing seems to be less hard.

A deep voice announces Lynyrd Skynyrd, reminding incidentally that the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Some drums rolls and it starts with « I Ain’t The One » with a good solo of Rickey Medlocke. « Tuesday’s Gone » is enhanced with « Boxcar »'s harmonica (that seems to be become essential) and with strings layers played on keyboards (I wonder if an organ wouldn't habe been more appropriate). Johnny Van Zant lets the audience clap the hands on the drums intro of « Gimme Three Steps » and Gary gives a well « honky tonk » solo. However I wonder about the presence of a completely inaudible percussionnist (whether on the DVD or on the CD).

Then Johnny Van Zant says that they are all born on the West side of Jacksonville and that on this side of the town you can only find simple men. This preamble announces « Simple Man » whose solo on the third rocks just as on the live version with Ronnie Van Zant. With « Things Goin’ On », we don't come up any question. Everything is there : the tempo, the Billy Powell-like piano, Gary's very good solo and a coda (on the record, the tune was cut).

We had the habit to see them play « Mississippi Kid » with Gary's slide solo on his beautiful white guitar but here, they granted us with an striking extra harmonica solo of « Boxcar ». Johnny Van Zant proposes a toast to the audience thanks to whom Lynyrd Skynyrd is still a legend in 2015. Then comes the great moment of the night with an excellent version of « Poison Whiskey ». This tune, often wrongly considered as minor, yet illustrates with its hypnotic beat the personified essence of the Southern Rock. Gary's six string is persuasive and Peter Keys hammers a good solo on his black and white keys. It's worth going out of your way. Of course, the show ends with an umpteenth version of « Freebird » with the classic extract of the interview of Ronnie Van Zant fishing. Rickey plays a good solo, less muddled than in some former live takes.

Second evening, second album, second CD.

Twist of fate, this evening was fatal to Bob Burns who bumped into a tree in Georgia after a concert.

The same voice from beyond the grave announces the band that starts with « Sweet Home Alabama ». Nothing particular to notice except that Johnny lets the audience sing on the last chorus and that Gary plays the first notes of « Dixie » at the end of the tune. « I Need You » makes me still as much fall for and I don't understand that this tune didn't have more success when the album was released in 1974. The solo at the third played by Gary et Rickey gives me the thrill. Then come « Don’t Ask Me No Questions » (with a wind section) and a punchy « Workin’ For MCA » although Mark Matejka takes some liberties with the solo. Then Johnny Van Zant tells that a guy from Staten Island, close to New York, assured him that seeing Lynyrd Skynyrd in Jacksonville was like seeing the Beatles in Liverpool. Follows « Ballad of Curtis Loew » performed whole (for once) and in a beautiful way, with backing vocals on the chorus. The keyboards are perhaps too present on the end but Johnny concludes the song assuring us that Shorty Medlocke was really Curtis Loew.

We can also notice Gary's good solo on « Swamp Music » (embellished with winds but with the keyboards too present) and Rickey's one (wah wah) on « The Needle And The Spoon ». The concert ends with « Call Me The Breeze ». The wind section is back, Rickey sings on the second chorus but the beginning of Gary's solo is poorly mixed (we can only hear the piano). Despite those little errors, it's a super show with a Gary Rossington at his top and often performing in solo (normal, he's there since the beginning of the adventure) with his so particular sustain.

The DVD doesn't bring anything more, except a backstage interview. Of course, we can see the theater and the members (young and old) of the audience, the light show, Johnny Colt's hat changes or his new haircut, Peter Keys' paws in close-up. Yet, the main fault can be found in following the guitarists during their solos, the shots being often cut.

I know that the diehard fan wishes to get the whole pack. Yet, in those crisis times, a buck is a buck. So, if you hesitate between a musical disc and a corn cake, I would recommand you to buy only the double CD, account of the big sound of those two unique shows and of Dad Gary's powerful comeback.

We can accuse Lynyrd Skynyrd to pour again new wine in old bottles but it's probably the best live recorded by the band for years.

The legend still goes on !

Olivier Aubry

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